Coxswain Yeung Chuen CN
Coxswain Yeung Chuen 1896-1976
The Chinese Liaison delegation in Hong Kong was led by Adm Chan Chak who acted as the Chinese-British Commander-In-Chief. Colonel S. K. Yee of the Chinese Secret Service was the Adm's 2nd in command, Flag Lt-Commander Henry Heng Hsu was the Adm's ADC, and his Coxswain Yeung Chuen who was his bodyguard and an expert in martial arts.
Colonel S. K. Yee was last seen on the bullet riddled boat in Aberdeen South where the Adm received a bullet in his left wrist. He escaped via Ap Lei Chau Island separately.
The 2nd MTB Flotilla which extracted the Aberdeen Island escape party out under cover of darkness had taken a beating during the battle for Hong Kong.
When the Japanese started to invade Hong Kong Island, the 2nd MTB Flotilla was ordered to attack and shoot up everything in sight, and to expend all ammunition in the process. Unbeknown to the flotilla, the Japanese had already established a beach head on the Island west of the Sugar Refinery at North Point. Lt Ronnie Ashby whose motto was "Be Just and Fear Naught" led the flotilla in MTB 07, pressing home the attack under withering fire from land, sea, and air, suffering heavy losses in the process. Only three MTB's survived to limp back to base in Aberdeen. Lt Kennedy on MTB "09" towed the stricken "07" back to base.The attack was arguably the most daring daylight MTB attack of all time, and was referred to as “The Balaclava of the Sea.” by Coastal Forces world wide. They were hailed "The bravest of the brave."
Lt Kennedy RNVR: "MTB 11 returned alone from the harbour with her coxswain wounded. There was a long silent pause as we strained our ears to catch the sound of distant engines, but none came. It was a dark day for the flotilla, and for the whole island." 
Lieutenant Commander Gandy R. N. (Rtrd) had prevailed against all the odds, and triumphed over adversity to deliver his people back to the UK without loss of life or serious injury after evading capture and escaping from Hong Kong on Christmas Day 1941.
PO Prest: "We travelled by cycles, lorries, junks, and donkeys, but mostly we walked. It was a case of march or die"
Buddy Hide: "On the whole, the moral, spirits, and courage of the party was magnificent. I think it was the shear thoughts of beating the Jap's, and the prospects of getting home after three years, some of us four years from home, that made us carry on."
Adm Chan Chak: "The Danish steer man was the first one shot, then the engineer. MacDougall and others were wounded. Most of the stray bullets had hit the boat and even some had hit my helmet.
Hsu was very wary about me the “One Foot Admiral of 50” swimming such a far distance.
I insisted to carry my own gun and passport. Yeung could not swim and he suggested that we should go back to Hong Kong. “Going back means surrender. I would rather die!” I said.
I took off my life preserver (which was the last one on board) and gave it to Yeung. As I raised my hand, a stray bullet went right through my left hand.
Yeung didn’t say anything anymore, he just jumped into the sea, followed by MacDougall with his wounded back.
YeeSiu-Kee and 2 other British soldiers had to remain on the boat. Yee could not swim and the 2 soldiers were badly wounded.
We were all sitting ducks in the water and non-stop bullets were flying everywhere.
I finally swam ashore on the small island right next to Apliechau." 
Left: Photo from Maj Goring's daring-do article on the escape published in 1949. 
Along with S.K. were two severely wounded volunteer crew left in the boat, the big forty seven year old Jutlander, Alec Damsgaard & Irishman J. J. Forster. After drifting all night the launch fetched up on the shore and S.K. bribed a junk man to take the two wounded to a hospital.
S.K. Yee: "I put the two others on a junk, asking the fishermen to take them to a hospital on the mainland in Kwangtung Province.
I was kept some days at Pak Sha wan and subsequently I had to return to the church at Apliechau, which was under the Reverend Cheng. I took shelter at the church for some days before making my final escape to Free China." 
Of the sixteen who set out on "HMS Cornflower's" launch, two were killed, one taken prisoner, another made good his own escape while the remaining twelve made it to the MTB's.
Clutching Hsu Heng (Henry)'s bible S.K. sought refuge with the Reverend Cheng in the Harbour Mission Church. He eventually made his way to Kukong in free China where Chan Chak was still recovering, arriving there on 5th February 1942 wearing Hsu Heng (Henry)'s shoes, only to leave two days later as mysteriously as he had arrived after falling out with Chan over the allegedly missing $40.000 (£2,500 GBP) They remained bitter opponents for the rest of Chan's life.
Back row: Supt. Bill Robinson, W. O. William M Wright HKRNVR, Capt. Peter Macmillan R. A., Capt. Reginald Guest 1st Mdsx, Coxswain Yeung Chuen CN, Ted Ross MoI>
2nd row: David MacDougall MoI, Adm Chan Chak CN, Major Arthur Goring Probyns Horse, Sq-Ldr. Max Oxford RAF
1st row: Cadet Holger Christensen, Lt-Cmd Hsu Heng (Henry) CN.
Photo from Chan Chak collection ©
Yeung Chuen, Coxswain to Admiral Chan Chak
Yeung was born in Yeung Uk village in Lung Chuen County, Guangdong Province, in 1896, the son of a Hakka peasant family. Without the benefit of schooling, but as a fit, strong martial arts practitioner he earned his living as a rickshaw puller in Canton. One day he picked up Adm Chan Chak, who left his briefcase accidentally in the rickshaw. The bag contained a large sum of money, and Yeung waited several hours patiently to return it. Impressed by his honesty, the Adm engaged him as his private rickshaw puller and he eventually became his personal coxswain-bodyguard. The Yeung and Chan families were very close, their children grew up together and flew kites from the roof of the Yeungs’ home. Yeung Chuen’s personal qualities included optimism, loyalty, generosity and kindness.
Yeung Chuen never left the Adm's side, and was holding him when he died unexpectedly after hosting a party at his home on 31st August 1949.
Coxswain Yeung Chuen was at Adm Chan Chak's side at all times, being a Martial Arts expert.
Photo from "Escape from the Blooded Sun" by Freddie Guest © which had mistaken Yeung Chuen with Hsu Heng (Henry).
Adm Chan chak with his Coxswain Yeung Chuen at Kukong 7th January 1942 where Chan was presented with a shield and flowers.
Yeung Chuen with his family after the war.
Photo from Yeung Chuen's collection ©
Photo from the Hide family collection ©
The Coxswain with a Big Heart
(name given at birth: Yeung Chi Ho)
Died: 1976 age 80
Origin: New North Village (formerly Yeung Uk Village), Lung Chuen County of Guangdong Province
- Born in a peasant family
- He did not go to school, spoke Hakka
- Practiced martial art
- Earned his living as a rickshaw puller in the city of Guangzhou (Canton)
How he came to work with the Adm
Yeung, as a rickshaw puller, picked up the Adm one day and took him to the anti-narcotics department. The Adm left his briefcase on the rickshaw. Yeung waited outside for several hours and returned the briefcase to the Adm when he came out from the meeting place. The Adm appreciated Yeung’s honesty (there was a large sum of money in the briefcase) and asked if he’s interested in working for someone as a private puller. Yeung then started working for the Adm and eventually became his coxswain.
A simple act of honesty changed Yeung’s life.
The Adm’s family and Yeung’s were very close. Their children grew up together. Yeung’s family lived in a 3-storey building in Canton. The Adm’s twin son, Donald and Duncan used to fly kites with Yeung’s sons at the rooftop.
After the Escape
After the escape party arrived in Hing Ling, at the request of the Adm, Yeung changed into peasant clothing, wore a straw hat, carried a gun with him and walked alone for five days back to Hong Kong to pick up the Adm’s wife and children. On his way, Yeung was stopped by two secret service agents. They pulled off Yeung’s hat, exchanged flashes of acknowledgement, then Yeung was let go.
After Yeung arrived in Hong Kong, the Adm’s wife informed him that she would leave Hong Kong later on with the assistance of a guerilla of the name Leung. Yeung then returned to Hing Ling and reported to the Adm. At that point, the Adm had to leave for Chung King and told Yeung that he could stay in LungChun. Yeung then returned to Hong Kong one more time to pick up his own wife.
- Yeung was optimistic, honest, loyal, kindhearted, benevolent, and willing to help other people unconditionally, whether they were known or unknown to him, absolutely no questions asked.
- 20 or 30 years ago, Yeung was well-known of his benevolence in the areas of Yuet Sau Road South, Man Tat Road South, Chu Kiang Road and Man Fook Road in Guangzhou.
- Yeung owned certain amount of farmlands and leased them to peasants. However, when the peasants were unable to tender the annual rent due to poor crops, Yeung did not pursue them for the unpaid rent, he even loaned grains to the peasants helping them to survive tough times.
- During the cultural revolution in the 60’s, Yeung’s house was searched and all effects connected to his earlier military life had been seized by the Red Guards. He had also been interrogated by the Red Guards, however, no one ever came forward to testify against him. Although he was branded as counter-revolutionary at that time, he had not been detained and did not suffer any physical bashing, except that he was not allowed to leave the premises of the village for a number of years.
- Yeung named his seven sons:
meant “Chinese people be strong and steer the country towards the right route.”
Audio by Lion Rock Films
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Research and web publication by Buddy Hide Jnr ©
The contents of this web site led to a considerable number of escapee families contacting me and now each other, and remains the principle source of contact and private information for the spin off projects that have followed. The personal accounts enabled me to record the complete and true account of this remarkable episode of Sino-British war time co-operation. The information compiled here has directly resulted in a museum exhibition in Hong Kong, a re-enactment of the escape in Hong Kong and China, with a movie drama and documentary in the making.
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